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Anonymous Animals

A serious, impressively committed and entirely wordless indie horror about humans being hunted and slaughtered by other animals.

Anonymous animals spirit of independence film festival 2020

One of film’s greatest pleasures, from Godzilla to Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You!, is the spectacle of a person in a silly costume being treated as a horrifying monster or an existential threat.

It’s becoming a lost art, but it continues at least in Anonymous Animals, a very serious, impressively committed and entirely wordless indie horror about humans being hunted and slaughtered by other animals.

These animals are all played by people in masks, so over the film’s course we are treated to a menagerie of bipedal creatures in human clothes: a shotgun-toting deer in a hunting jacket, a horse in overalls smoking a cigarette, and a whole pack of dogs in flannels and fleeces. It’s absurd, but the film never makes a joke at its own expense, instead shooting its animal cast as the frightening, inscrutable monsters that they are to their victims.

The role reversal, of course, intends to demonstrate to us the mistreatment that animals suffer at the hands of humans. After being hunted, the humans in the film are corralled into pens, shocked with cattle prods and killed with bolt guns, or made to fight one another. It’s a fairly thin concept and one that is never especially elaborated on, but it keeps the film going through its compact 64 minutes.

It’s also never exactly scary. Instead its beautiful shots of grey, skeletal woods and grim agro-industrial landscapes evoke a kind of hypnotic bleakness, helped along by a powerful, looming score.

It is, perhaps, never as horrifying as it hopes to be: the animals are too human-like and the humans too animal for the atrocity to be entirely brought home. But as an elegy for a fallen world, it works.

Those costumes might be silly, but they’re also desperately sad.

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